tv [untitled] March 14, 2013 7:00pm-7:30pm PDT
the abuses that used in c-e-q-a's name raise risk and uncertainty which makes good projects take longer and cost more to build. these costs have to be passed somewhere. the price of spurious appeals is to make san francisco's housing in the words of ed glaeser, scarce and expensive. supervisor wiener's c-e-q-a proposal is not the first pass at this. over the last 10 years, supervisors fiona ma and machaela alioto-pier tried unsuccessfully to make similar changes. we want to remind you supervisor wiener at this commission's request last year, delayed the proposal months to conduct yet more outreach to the community. more changes were made to it. but we finally have to acknowledge that in spite of this, there are some folk that simply will never bend or compromise on this. in the history of san francisco, there's never been enough public outreach. we believe that simple fairness requires that some limits on
appeals have to be put into negative declarations and cad x's. contrary to our opponents' claim, this would do nothing to prevent citizens from being informed and participating in an open and transparent process. it is not coincidental that state legislators right now are working in sacramento at statewide modifications and reforms of c-e-q-a. when our opponents claim that any restrictions on these rules are unfair and harmful, we would counter with examples of projects that illustrate how c-e-q-a is abused in ways that have nothing to do with improving environmental quality. a short list of our favorites picked at random would include the bicycle plan, the 2004 housing element, and booker t. washington center, the edward 2 and the bridge housing project on geary. those last three are housing projects below income and the most vulnerable citizens we have got caught up in c-e-q-a to great length. we learned yesterday that there
is an alternate proposal that is being put forward and we're trying to catch up and understand what it means. but what i've heard so far from our members is that it would absolutely explode public process. and it appears nothing more than a way to bypass the planning commission. please move this forward. it's done everything that you asked of it and it's long overdue. thank you. good evening, commissioners, sue vaughan with the sierra club. we agree that there needs to be clarity on the notification and appeals process. we don't believe that people's right to appeal projects is what's forcing up the cost of housing in san francisco. we think people are building expensive housing and we think that's what's causing the price of housing to be so expensive. the beecher soccer field is a
prime example of a project where there was not enough clarity. apparently there was a categorical exemption that was issued in january of 2007 and nobody knew about this until -- or concerned member of the public didn't know until i think december 2009 when it slipped out at a public meeting and shortly thereafter the golden gate audubon society filed an appeal of categorical exemption. and then in april 2010, the rec and park commission passed a resolution adopting the beecher way soccer field. there was not a lot of clarity about what was going on at the project. so, there does need to be -- there do need to be rules about how to proceed and how to appeal. but the fact there was so little clarity about how to go about the beecher way soccer field as an example, the trigger for an appeal should be
at the end of the final approval and not the first approval. so, we're asking you to take that into consideration. we're also asking that you please do consider supervisor kim's legislation. it was drafted by people who practice c-e-q-a law. they helped put that together. and it does mention the historic preservation commission. and we passed -- we created the historic preservation commission through ballot measure. they're not the enemies. they're here to preserve housing, affordable housing, and our beautiful san francisco architecture. thank you. hi, good evening, commissioners. my name is erin frank, [speaker not understood], we're a
nonprofit that supports infill development and smart growth policy. i'm here today to represent my organization. we're in strong support of this measure. we work a lot with low-income neighborhoods with environmental justice communities, particularly to put in affordable housing and other community supported projects. all too often we've seen these projects run into problems with c-e-q-a and especially for them, having a long delay between when appeal can be filed and when they submit their original proposal is particularly bad. they operate on low budgets. they have tight deadlines and longer and longer breaks between when they know there is going to be appeal. it is especially hard on them. standardizing this process is a very common sense approach. every single person who has gotten up here has reiterated the need for more clarity. i understand people have concerns about the particular proposal and they believe there will not be enough opportunity for public comment. however, 30 days is plenty of time to review a proposal, to see whether you have something to say about it.
and it would really help cutback on the abuse of the c-e-q-a process by those who don't have the best interest of the community in mind. it is enough time for community groups to really express their opinions without wasting people's time. now, for the past several months, supervisor wiener has done an extensive outreach process. i think that that's really a reiteration of how much this proposal is trying to bring together consensus. there is no way we are ever going to get complete consensus on the issue, but i think that the need for reform and the need to fix the process so it is more clear for everyone is absolutely imperative. i really ask you all to approve this proposal. thank you for your time. >> thank you. good afternoon, commissioners. my name is hiroshi fakuda, chair for the coalition for land use and housing committee. thank you for putting forward the item early in the agenda. [laughter]
hopefully in the future we can go even earlier. several comments. there were some comments made about work community. well, as you heard, there were many groups that were represented in this community, neighborhood groups, [speaker not understood], park merced, environmental groups, green party, sierra club, sft, environmental justice groups from bayview hunters point. so, there were, you know, a large number. 30, 40 groups involved. as far as outreach, yes, supervisor wiener was good enough to call some meetings. [speaker not understood] cancellations and misinformation. he was good enough to listen to us. however, you know, that's half the battle. they result in some of our most pressing needs. ~ were not answered and that's why we're here today, because we have some very important
issues. first of all, the first approval trigger, that could be very misleading. it could go under the radar. and it seems like it's a method to sneak through projects that when people are not on guard. and as far as notification of cad x's, it was going to be posted on the planning website. at one of our meetings with one of the supervisors' aides who is very proficient in using the computer, i asked him, well, let's see how easy it is to find the cad x's and see what's being approved. and he tried to go to planning department site and he was not able to find it by himself. i had to tell him where to go. so, gee. and then when the cad x's came up, you know how it's listed?
it's not listed by any user friendly method. it's listed by for the week of this, then it lists the streets. [speaker not understood] and the numbers, 15th avenue, 18th avenue, whatever. there it gives the house number. ~ ~ planning staff, sara jones admitted the website is not user friendly. so until you have this
notification well under control, user friendly, i think that needs major work. so, please, do not take any action. ~ ~ >> technical difficulty [speaker not understood]. i felt compelled to come here today to come here to support supervisor wiener in had i effort to reform and make the c-e-q-a process a little more sensible. and i'm going to sound like a broken record. but again, i want to thank him so much for taking lead on this. this is a very difficult topic and i know it's very controversial. and i want to thank the staff
as well for all the work that they've done on this. they've done tremendous amount of outreach and their homework and so forth. i think it's really terrific. i can't speak on the specificses of the proposal. i do want to second what jim colin said a few minutes ago. as an architect, i know a little bit about the c-e-q-a process. i have to deal with it sometimes. ~ ~ >> technical difficulty i think everybody in this room supports the content of c-e-q-a, but the process is broken. and anything to make it less chaotic and simplified is [inaudible]. as tim pointed out, it really -- we always talk about the affordability of housing and the cost of construction, the cost of doing projects and how long it takes. and these processes really add to the cost and the time and so forth. so, again, anything that can be done to streamline it is really appreciated. and we all know how it is abused. i mean, i'm a bicyclist and i had to wait years for the bicycle plan to go through this process unnecessarily. so, again, i urge you to support this legislation. thank you very much. >> thank you.
good evening, commissioners. tamika moss with spur. i do have a letter of support for supervisor wiener's legislation from our housing policy board did review this and we do support it. i do want to direct my comments more about sort of process. as a trained social worker, i'm very familiar with process. i spent a lot of time empowering people around process. and i think one of the things that happens when you establish a process is that where there have been no boundaries or parameters and you insert those into a chaotic environment, people rebel against those and i think that is part of what we're seeing in terms of this opposition. people are very concerned that this change and the variety of changes described in this legislation will cause unintended consequence he. and, so, i think it's important that supervisor wiener and his staff and the planning
department has taken the time to really establish a process so that people can, in fact, have an opportunity to participate in that process. i think one of my favorite pieces about this legislation is the increased notification that is required. i think that that -- it also infuses an element of accountability. part of this process is that you want people to exercise their right to comment nd participate in their communities and have an input -- have an impact on the outcome of these projects. and we also have to have accountability to the process and make sur that we all can participate in it so that it doesn't have an undue negative impact on the people that we care about. spur organized the c-e-q-a tour, bus tour to several projects around san francisco. we had state legislators come out, environmental groups, and we visited the edward ii project which is the chp
project in north beach. and i was really taken how challenged that project was through the c-e-q-a process, and it is a project for transitional youth and affordable housing project. i've done a great deal of affordable housing advocacy in the last 10 years, and i think that this legislation, that project would have benefited from this process. so, i encourage you all to really support this legislation and understand that it's difficult because it is new, but i believe that supervisor wiener has really responded to the community's concerns and that this legislation will be helpful to everyone. thank you. good evening, commissioner. kathrin howard on landscape architect. i'm at sf ocean edge and the golden gate park preservation alliance.
for four years i was chair of the sustainable development committee for spur. we went from 50 to over 200 members while i was chair and we introduced a great many progressive programs. i am not against change, but i am for protecting our parks. and i want to tell you a short story about that. in 2009 the conservation with district director of the golden gate audubon society tried to find the [speaker not understood] for the soccer fields project. after numerous frustrated inquiries over a period of months he found there was a class 1 categorical exemption. he only learned this because a city employee let it slip during a public meeting. this totally bizarre exemption was for a 14-acre project that would destroy the western end of golden gate park with over 7 acre of artificial turf and 150,000 watts of sports lighting lighted until 10:00 p.m. every night every year right next to ocean beach. it is currently under appeal
with the california coastal commission with over 200 appeals, a record for that commission. viewers can learn more at sf ocean edge.org. our parks and open space are vital to the quality of life for all san franciscans and especially for those who cannot afford to travel outside the city. expensive environment -- extensive environmental review with a transparent public process is crucial to protecting our parks. why is this a problem for supervisor wiener as he stated? what are the inappropriate development plans for our parks that he wants to short circuit with his new legislation? if the city is going to tighten up c-e-q-a deadlines, then the city must also provide considerably more complete environmental review, more thorough outreach, and more extensive notifications than is provided in this legislation. one should not have to be a
conservation director and an attorney with a major environmental organization to find out what is going to be done to our parks. supervisor wiener's legislation, i believe, weakens protection for all our parks. we support stronger c-e-q-a protections and at a minimum, the legislation that supervisor kim's office has proposed. i hope that you will take the time to consider it. thank you. >> [speaker not understood] and then judith [speaker not understood]. i wish i was included in any of the discussions and i've been involved in c-e-q-a over 30-year. some people were left out in this. i think supervisor wiener had some very good intentions. i think that this plus kim's, maybe we can finally come up with something that is reasonable. our problem is with that first notice and they can keep working. we've had several, several,
several buildings that didn't pass -- after c-e-q-a that didn't pass an appeal for valid reasons. one was mentioned today. and the reason why it's failing is because they -- a certain organization misrepresented facts to the federal government and they're not getting funding. i think that we should be very circumvent on how we vote on this. and i think that the notice should be 45 days. my reason? it takes two weeks for it to get to my neighborhood from the planning commission. there is a hearing right now, a pre-application meeting that i still haven't gotten a notice on. tonight it goes to 9 o'clock. this has been a wonderful day in city hall. and -- but i think that to allow something that is on
appeal to keep building and keep processing, i think that we are hurting ourselves and setting our self-up for big lawsuits if something should fail under the c-e-q-a process. ~ with the appeals. and if somebody continues to build while they're going through the process, on the project, then all of a sudden they say they can't do it for valid c-e-q-a actions, then all of a sudden who gets it? the city. so, i think we really should be very, very, very careful on how we do it. i think this is a great beginning. i think it's pretty good, pretty good legislation, but this factor really worries me. thank you. good evening, commissioners. i'm judith hoyam, and i'm
connected with a long-time member of san francisco preservation consortium and that's where my interest is. i like so many others have been quite disturbed about supervisor wiener's legislation. it seemed to tighten down the process and i'm really unfamiliar with participatory democracy. i think the public has a right to make certain demands, such as greater c-e-q-a -- greater application of c-e-q-a rather than a quicker process for everyone to get through. >> go on.
yes. so, i won't reiterate the problems with supervisor wiener's legislation. at the 11th hour, we have heard from the planning department that certain thing would be, would be asked of you to amend the legislation. it seems to me that supervisor wiener has been so concerned with having this chaotic process of c-e-q-a, but he has introduced a chaotic process in trying to amend c-e-q-a. so, i am very disturbed by the whole process. now you have another -- if we have another competing piece of legislation that's going to come before the board of supervisors, and i would ask you to hold off oncoming to any conclusion about this legislation. and i would hope that you would do more work on this by looking
at supervisor kim's legislation before you make any kind of decisions. but thank you very much. >> thank you. is there any additional public comment? ~ on this item? okay, seeing none, public comment is closed. commissioner borden. >> yeah, i want to thank everyone who has participated in the process and supervisor wiener for engaging with the community around c-e-q-a and the issues, many of the issues that we raised in the last hearing have been dealt with. i want to make sure the public understands we do not have supervisor kim's legislation. we have not seen supervisor kim's legislation. i don't think it's been properly quote-unquote introduced, i guess, in the way that it would be sent from the clerk of the board to our commission. so, we cannot weigh on that decision. also, as you all might know, there is a decision clock that starts when legislation comes to the board of supervisors. we have a window in which we
can weigh in on it. the supervisor doesn't have to listen to what we have to say. we are not elected official, we are a discretionary body. so, at the end, our opinion while valuable is not necessarily, you know, the final word on that. in terms of c-e-q-a, i think that what is often misunderstood is that the california environmental quality act is an information tool. i mean, the sole purpose of c-e-q-a is to provide the public with information about projects being proposed. it doesn't take an affirmative or negative position on projects and it's not supposed to be seen in that regard. you are supposed to use it to evaluate the projects or become controversial is whether or not people agree with when the city, if decision maker choose to move forward with the project, their determination of why they can do that. i mean the issue is thev actually with the documents or with c-e-q-a itself. it's whether or not you agree given
the information that you agree, right? i mean, that's really what we're talking about here. in terms of the very large projects, the park merceds, the major projects that go on in the city, this has nothing to do with that, right. the projects we're talking about are categorical exemptions and negative declarations. these are projects that are typically an addition to your neighbor's house, maybe something on a public building. we're not -- the major projects that people really get concerned about are not being influenced by this because this is -- they have a different process that already exists. that is just a fact because this does not deal with e-i-rs. this is p dealing with e-i-rs. it's dealing with cad ex's and negative declarations. fundamentally it's created a process for those documents where one does not exist. i will agree the website of the planning department is not user friendly and that needs to change. regardless of whether or not
we're talking about c-e-q-a form, that does need to change. you have to go under the e-i-r section and then look under the categorical exemption, then i do think we should make it more obvious and i think that that's something, i know that our communications team is working on. at this point one of the big issues that seems to be discussed is the first approval versus the last approval. that seems to be the major source of contention between those people supporting supervisor wiener's legislation and those people who do not. in terms of the community planning exemption, i did have a question for the supervisor. projects that would be under the community plan exemption, in this process when would the appeal period begin for that? that's one thing i think would be useful to worry about because i think that's the one area where larger projects would be impacted. >> thank you, sara jones in
environmental planning. with community plan exemptions we administer them in the same way as regular exemptions. so, these would be appealable at the same time as regular exemptions. sometimes there is a focused environmental review document that's dealing just with the specific issues where there are significant impacts and mitigationses needed. and then we use essentially the process for the "highest" environmental document. they would be treated as a negative declaration or e-i-r in that case. >> great, perfect. the other thing is that it was interesting because one of the thing that people mentioned about people crafting the legislation around c-e-q-a that there were c-e-q-a attorneys. i was like, wow, and people always make kind of charge the developers support legislation that support their work. one could argue a c-e-q-a attorney would be more, you know, inclined toward legislation that met with their work.
people work by the hour and they want to make money, you know, some c-e-q-a attorney, maybe ambiguity is something that works well for me. but i think that that's not best served. i believe that this document seems very balanced to me in terms of what is being suggested here. i actually don't really get the controversy. i recognize, like i said, there is a major sticking point around whether or not you feel the first approval or the last approval should be the point. i mean, the thing that's not happening is people aren't losing their ability to appeal a project. that is saying the same and we're actually increasing noticing requirements in creating rules when there is ambiguity. so, that's a good thing. we often say when we're working on a plan, when we do neighborhood plans, you know, when we had eastern neighborhoods or even western soma, when people came at the end of the process, we actually said, oh, this process has been going on eight years, too late to the people. we said, you should have been around sooner. it is a kind of funny when we
come to c-e-q-a, we say, you can do it at the end, but it's not important in the beginning. i think we can't have it both ways. we think that people's input is valuable and paying attention in the beginning, then that's where the emphasis should be placed. better notification so people can be informed. the fact that the legislation is now changed that when there is a substantive change in a project, then c-e-q-a process opens up again, it makes sense. what we've heard a lot about in general where people are -- even things they bring up that they're upset about is there is more opposition to specific projects than there is c-e-q-a. people use c-e-q-a because they are opposed to a project. but it doesn't necessarily mean there is anything wrong with the environmental review process. and i think that's kind of what's troubling in the conversation. a true environmentalist should want c-e-q-a to work as it is intended to work because it's alluded or changed in a way that makes it about anything
other than the environment, it is counterproductive to supporting the environment. so, for me if i were -- i mean, if that was my position, i would be very supportive of c-e-q-a form that really allowed people to focus on the environmental aspects and then you can debate an appeal project and what you don't like about those projects moving forward. but i think that what's too often the case is that the confusion between c-e-q-a and dislike of a project, and people use c-e-q-a -- if you were to actually look at the number of appeals that actually do happen and whether or not they are upheld by a court or, you know, or by the board of supervisors, there aren't that many. it tells me that the environmental review process along the way is working even if members of the community don't necessarily agree with how it works. >> commissioner antonini. >> well, thank you. my experience is some